Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.
This week started the annual birthday marathon in my family. The next two-and-a-half weeks will see the birthdays of six of my favorite people and one anniversary. Spring is a happenin’ time.
There is one very special birthday coming up this weekend, a milestone year for my Aunt Pammie. And before she welcomes a new decade, I wanted to share some of the life lessons I’ve learned thanks to her wise council.
My mom jokes that when I was born she handed me right over to Pam. We’ve always been very close. We’re the wild ones. We share a love of laughter, the color purple, being creative, a sick sense of humor. We share our middle-child status. Maybe that’s the most important. We’ve just always clicked.
Pam started teaching us things the moment our attention spans reached five seconds. She taught Booh and me how to put on make-up. And, maybe more importantly, how to take it off.
I feel like Pam would want me to assure you she doesn’t have that wallpaper anymore.
It doesn’t surprise me to hear that Pam is offering pie-making classes, because she’s just a natural teacher. We’ve had so many conversations about life, love, family, death, pain, forgiveness. She just wants to share, to learn, to connect. And I love that about her. One of the many things. Here’s another–she’s absolutely hilarious.
Of all the lessons, the ones I love most concern food. Food is a very big deal in our family. ‘You got a new job!? Let’s celebrate with a big dinner.’ ‘You got fired from your job?! Let’s console ourselves with ice cream.’ ‘You’ve never had homemade (fill in the blank)?! It’s only midnight, let’s make some right now!”
Whether we’re burning coconut, popping homemade popcorn in a still-standing green bowl or making a mess while cooking fudge…
It’s joy. It’s comfort. It’s us.
Here are five of my favorite foodie lessons from Aunt Pam chronicling some of our very best shared meals, in no particular order:
5. Try New Things
When I was a senior in high school, Pam took me to Chicago to audition for Northwestern University. And after the audition, we—what else?—celebrated by going to a nice dinner at Vivere. It was there I had my first bite of wild mushrooms and immediately fell in love. It was also where I sat staring at the dessert menu filled to the brim with indecisiveness when she said, “Marci. Stop. Do you see where it says Passion Fruit Sorbet? When you see REAL passion fruit on a menu, you get it. It doesn’t matter what it’s paired with. Just get it.” And I did. And I do. And she was right.
4. Always Push Your Boundaries
Pam and I have traveled a lot together and where we eat is always just as important, if not more, than the attractions we see. Once, in Philadelphia, Pam took me to what Philly hails as its best Italian restaurant, La Famiglia Ristorante. We had done our research. (And by ‘we’, I mean ‘she.’) This was where the locals went. So we tried everything and drank copious amounts of fine wine. And just when you thought you couldn’t put one more bite in your mouth, out came an entire three-level dessert cart. This is where most southern belles would wave their white napkins in surrender, but no. Not us. I think I tried one of everything on that damn cart. It was heavenly. If you’re going to go to the best Italian restaurant in Philly, you better try the cannoli.
3. Have a Signature Drink
Just like the ladies of New York in the early 2000s with their cosmos, Pam has a signature drink: The Cham-Cham. She introduced me to it long before my legal years, first in sips sitting on the lawn at an OK Mozart concert and now by the glassful in hotel rooms. Will travel with the hard stuff: Half champagne, half Chambord (black-raspberry liqueur). It’s. So. Freakin’. Good. It makes me feel so classy…especially when it comes in a bottle like this.
2. Start Your Day Off Right
When you spend a night at Pam’s you won’t be waking up to dry cereal or oatmeal. You will experience the most delicious waffles with all the toppings (including peanut butter for me, much to her chagrin) and a wonderful palette-cleansing fruit salad. I joke that her waffles are the only thing that could bring our family together before 10am. (Unless we never went to bed, which is also a possibility.) Here’s Pam’s secret weapon when it comes to breakfast: maple syrup. She taught me to buy the real stuff, sorry Aunt Jemima, and always…ALWAYS…serve it warm. Makes all the difference in the world.
1. Go Big Or Go Home
A few years ago, Pam won an achievement trip for being a total champ at work. She generously took me as her guest, so together we soaked up the sun, massage oil, Cham-Chams and…you guessed it…good food. In our resort was a five-star restaurant, The Georgian Room—my very first foray into the finest of fine dining. I can’t tell you how incredible our meal was, how beautiful each plate looked, how our wine perfectly complimented our food. It was event eating. And while everything about that trip was fun and amazing, the thing I will always remember and think of first is that meal, and the wonderful, deep conversation we had while enjoying it. The meal wasn’t priceless, but the memories are.
Pam calls me her #2 Niece, as in birth order, but I tell her I’m her #1 Fan. She’s one of the best people I’ll ever know and I really can’t describe how much I love and admire her. Her shoes are too large to fill, but I hope I can be a fraction of the Aunt she has been to me to all of the littles in my life. Here’s to Aunt Pammie and her big birthday on Sunday. Where shall we eat?